A Royal Night Out is cinematic champagne: bubbly, infectious and deliriously enjoyable
Film releases don't get any more topical than A Royal Night Out, a regal story that's rightly capitalizing on the hat trick of VE Day's 70th anniversary, the arrival of a new princess, and the Mother's Day weekend. But this madcap coming of age story would be doing just fine without any current events to get people in the door - A Royal Night Out is my pick for the feel-good film of the year; a hugely charming adventure that should win over even the most cynical of critics.
It's VE Day in May 1945, and Great Britain is celebrating the end of a war that's ravaged the nation for the past six years. Princesses Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) are itching to get amongst the party – much to the consternation of the King and Queen (Rupert Everett and Emily Watson), who nevertheless grant them one night out in London that becomes as extraordinary for the princesses as you might expect.
Based on real events that were undoubtedly heavily embellished for the screen, A Royal Night Out is more excellent historical fiction than it is a serious history lesson. Hardly concerned with providing a true-life account of the princesses' night of freedom, it's instead a beautifully effective coming-of-age tale of two sisters getting a taste of life beyond the palace walls. A Royal Night Out speaks to the universal adolescent moment of experiencing the world around you on your own terms for the first time, and reaches deliriously giddy highs of excitement along the way.
Sarah Gadon commands the screen as Elizabeth, providing surprisingly rich characterization to a role that could easily have been wafer thin. Unrelentingly earnest as the girl who would become queen only eight years later, it's a performance that provides a winning depiction of entering adulthood with a rather foreboding set of expectations placed upon you.
But A Royal Night Out never lets itself get too serious – it's really riotously funny. Bel Powley gets to share the spotlight as the film's main comic relief – providing the bulk of the film's laughs with aplomb as the endearingly sheltered Margaret discovers night clubs and "knocking shops" in her night on the town. The host of supporting characters also get their share of the fun – including Elizabeth and Margaret's chaperones who get rather sidetracked by the celebrations, and the surprisingly gentlemanly proprietor of a seedy establishment visited along the way.
I suppose the film is rather unremarkable from any objective standpoint you might be viewing from – there are no real surprises to be had, and Elizabeth's fleeting romance is all too standard. But A Royal Night Out is cinematic champagne – bubbly, infectious and deliriously enjoyable in a way that you've been hard pressed to find in films of late. I was grinning from start to finish, except for the part where I burst into tears.
A Royal Night Out is a welcome change from the special effects-driven blockbusters that 2015 has been seemingly littered with thus far. It's my pick for the feel-good movie of the year – take your mother, grandmother, and your best friend and go along for the ride.